List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

your majesty permit me?"

"Certainly.  Ask it."

"Why did not your majesty do his first minister the honor of giving him
notice of this in Paris?"

"You were ill; I was not willing to fatigue you."

"Never did a labor - never did an explanation fatigue me, sire; and since
the moment is come for me to demand an explanation of my king - "

"Oh, Monsieur Fouquet! an explanation?  An explanation, pray, of what?"

"Of your majesty's intentions with respect to myself."

The king blushed.  "I have been calumniated," continued Fouquet, warmly,
"and I feel called upon to adjure the justice of the king to make

"You say all this to me very uselessly, Monsieur Fouquet; I know what I

"Your majesty can only know the things that have been told to you; and I,
on my part, have said nothing to you, whilst others have spoken many,
many times - "

"What do you wish to say?" said the king, impatient to put an end to this
embarrassing conversation.

"I will go straight to the facts, sire; and I accuse a certain man of
having injured me in your majesty's opinion."

"Nobody has injured you, Monsieur Fouquet."

"That reply proves to me, sire, that I am right."

"Monsieur Fouquet, I do not like people to be accused."

"Not when one is accused?"

"We have already spoken too much about this affair."

"Your majesty will not allow me to justify myself?"

"I repeat that I do not accuse you."

Fouquet, with a half-bow, made a step backward.  "It is certain," thought
he, "that he has made up his mind.  He alone who cannot go back can show
such obstinacy.  Not to see the danger now would be to be blind indeed;
not to shun it would be stupid."  He resumed aloud, "Did your majesty
send for me on business?"

"No, Monsieur Fouquet, but for some advice I wish to give you."

"I respectfully await it, sire."

"Rest yourself, Monsieur Fouquet, do not throw away your strength; the
session of the States will be short, and when my secretaries shall have
closed it, I do not wish business to be talked of in France for a

"Has the king nothing to say to me on the subject of this assembly of the

"No, Monsieur Fouquet."

"Not to me, the surintendant of the finances?"

"Rest yourself, I beg you; that is all I have to say to you."

Fouquet bit his lips and hung his head.  He was evidently busy with some
uneasy thought.  This uneasiness struck the king.  "Are you angry at
having to rest yourself, M. Fouquet?" said he.

"Yes, sire, I am not accustomed to take rest."

"But you are ill; you must take care of yourself."

"Your majesty spoke just now of a speech to be pronounced to-morrow."

His majesty made no reply; this unexpected stroke embarrassed him.
Fouquet felt the weight of this hesitation.  He thought he could read
danger in the eyes of the young prince, which fear would but
precipitate.  "If I appear frightened, I am lost," thought he.

The king, on his part, was only uneasy at the alarm of Fouquet.  "Has he
a suspicion of anything?" murmured he.

"If his first word is severe," again thought Fouquet; "if he becomes
angry, or feigns to be angry for the sake of a pretext, how shall I
extricate myself?  Let us smooth the declivity a little.  Gourville was

"Sire," said he, suddenly, "since the goodness of the king watches over
my health to the point of dispensing with my labor, may I not be allowed
to be absent from the council of to-morrow?  I could pass the day in bed,
and will entreat the king to grant me his physician, that we may endeavor
to find a remedy against this fearful fever."

"So be it, Monsieur Fouquet, it shall be as you desire; you shall have a
holiday to-morrow, you shall have the physician, and shall be restored to

"Thanks!" said Fouquet, bowing.  Then, opening his game: "Shall I not
have the happiness of conducting your majesty to my residence of Belle-

And he looked Louis full in the face, to judge of the effect of such a
proposal.  The king blushed again.

"Do you know," replied he, endeavoring to smile, "that you have just
said, 'My residence of Belle-Isle'?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well! do you not remember," continued the king in the same cheerful
tone, "that you gave me Belle-Isle?"

"That is true again, sire.  Only, as you have not taken it, you will
doubtless come with me and take possession of it."

"I mean to do so."

"That was, besides, your majesty's intention as well as mine; and I
cannot express to your majesty how happy and proud I have been to see all
the king's regiments from Paris to help take possession."

The king stammered out that he did not bring the musketeers for that

"Oh, I am convinced of that," said Fouquet, warmly; "your majesty knows
very well that you have nothing to do but to come alone with a cane in
your hand, to bring to the ground all the fortifications of Belle-Isle."

"_Peste!_" cried the king; "I do not wish those fine fortifications,
which cost so much to build, to fall at all.  No, let them stand against
the Dutch and English.  You would not guess what I want to see at Belle-
Isle, Monsieur Fouquet; it is the pretty peasants and women of the lands
on the sea-shore, who dance so well, and are so seducing with their
scarlet petticoats!  I have heard great boast of your pretty tenants,
monsieur le surintendant; well, let me have a sight of them."

"Whenever your majesty pleases."

"Have you any means of transport?  It shall be to-morrow, if you like."

The surintendant felt this stroke, which was not adroit, and replied,
"No, sire; I was ignorant of your majesty's wish; above all, I was
ignorant of your haste to see Belle-Isle, and I am prepared with nothing."

"You have a boat of your own, nevertheless?"

"I have five; but they are all in port, or at Paimboeuf; and to join
them, or bring them hither, would require at least twenty-four hours.
Have I any occasion to send a courier?  Must I do so?"

"Wait a little, put an end to the fever, - wait till to-morrow."

"That is true.  Who knows but that by to-morrow we may not have a hundred
other ideas?" replied Fouquet, now perfectly convinced and very pale.

The king started, and stretched his hand out towards his little bell, but
Fouquet prevented his ringing.

"Sire," said he, "I have an ague - I am trembling with cold.  If I remain
a moment longer, I shall most likely faint.  I request your majesty's
permission to go and fling myself beneath the bedclothes."

"Indeed, you are in a shiver; it is painful to behold!  Come, Monsieur
Fouquet, begone!  I will send to inquire after you."

"Your majesty overwhelms me with kindness.  In an hour I shall be better."

"I will call some one to reconduct you," said the king.

"As you please, sire; I would gladly take the arm of any one."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan!" cried the king, ringing his little bell.

"Oh, sire," interrupted Fouquet, laughing in such a manner as made the
prince feel cold, "would you give me the captain of your musketeers to
take me to my lodgings?  An equivocal honor that, sire!  A simple
footman, I beg."

"And why, M. Fouquet?  M. d'Artagnan conducts me often, and extremely

"Yes, but when he conducts you, sire, it is to obey you; whilst me - "

"Go on!"

"If I am obliged to return home supported by the leader of the
musketeers, it would be everywhere said you had had me arrested."

"Arrested!" replied the king, who became paler than Fouquet himself, -
"arrested! oh!"

"And why should they not say so?" continued Fouquet, still laughing; "and
I would lay a wager there would be people found wicked enough to laugh at
it."  This sally disconcerted the monarch.  Fouquet was skillful enough,
or fortunate enough, to make Louis XIV. recoil before the appearance of
the deed he meditated.  M. d'Artagnan, when he appeared, received an
order to desire a musketeer to accompany the surintendant.

"Quite unnecessary," said the latter; "sword for sword; I prefer
Gourville, who is waiting for me below.  But that will not prevent me
enjoying the society of M. d'Artagnan.  I am glad he will see Belle-Isle,
he is so good a judge of fortifications."

D'Artagnan bowed, without at all comprehending what was going on.
Fouquet bowed again and left the apartment, affecting all the slowness of
a man who walks with difficulty.  When once out of the castle, "I am
saved!" said he.  "Oh! yes, disloyal king, you shall see Belle-Isle, but
it shall be when I am no longer there."

He disappeared, leaving D'Artagnan with the king.

"Captain," said the king, "you will follow M. Fouquet at the distance of
a hundred paces."

"Yes, sire."

"He is going to his lodgings again.  You will go with him."

"Yes, sire."

"You will arrest him in my name, and will shut him up in a carriage."

"In a carriage.  Well, sire?"

"In such a fashion that he may not, on the road, either converse with any
one or throw notes to people he may meet."

"That will be rather difficult, sire."

"Not at all."

"Pardon me, sire, I cannot stifle M. Fouquet, and if he asks for liberty
to breathe, I cannot prevent him by closing both the windows and the
blinds.  He will throw out at the doors all the cries and notes possible."

"The case is provided for, Monsieur d'Artagnan; a carriage with a trellis
will obviate both the difficulties you point out."

"A carriage with an iron trellis!" cried D'Artagnan; "but a carriage with
an iron trellis is not made in half an hour, and your majesty commands me
to go immediately to M. Fouquet's lodgings."

"The carriage in question is already made."

"Ah! that is quite a different thing," said the captain; "if the carriage
is ready made, very well, then, we have only to set it in motion."

"It is ready - and the horses harnessed."


"And the coachman, with the outriders, is waiting in the lower court of
the castle."

D'Artagnan bowed.  "There only remains for me to ask your majesty whither
I shall conduct M. Fouquet."

"To the castle of Angers, at first."

"Very well, sire."

"Afterwards we will see."

"Yes, sire."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan, one last word: you have remarked that, for making

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: